Confusion reigns as IOC could hedge on Russia decision

Must announce by Sunday if Russian Olympic Committee is reinstated

Confusion reigns as IOC could hedge on Russia decision
The decision whether to reinstate the Russian Olympic Committee prior to the closing ceremony in Pyeongchang is ultimately in the hands of IOC President Thomas Bach. © Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

By Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

Confusion reigns over how the International Olympic Committee will decide what to do with the banned Russian Olympic Committee. They could readmit them, continue the ban or hedge with what the IOC says might be a "partial solution."

The IOC must announce by Sunday if the Russian Olympic Committee will be readmitted to the Olympic family after being ousted because of a massive doping scandal. That would allow about 160 Russian athletes competing at the Games in Pyeongchang to fly their own flag on Sunday at the closing ceremony. They've been competing in South Korea under a neutral flag under the name "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

Two strikes against readmission are positive doping tests by two Russian athletes, including one who had to forfeit his bronze medal. That's half of the four doping cases reported so far at this year's Olympics.

The positive tests come as the IOC has bragged that Russian athletes had been "rigorously tested" months before the games — and during them.

Partial lifting of ban may be necessary

Almost three months ago, IOC President Thomas Bach and the dozen members of the executive board acted alone on Dec. 5 to ban Russia. But IOC spokesman Mark Adams could not explain who would decide this time: the executive board on Saturday, or the full membership meeting on Sunday.

"The executive board will hear and decide on the basis of what they've heard ... what the next step will be," Adams said.

He said the Russian scandal would be debated by the full membership on Sunday, "but whether there will be a vote or not, I'm not able to say."

He also said "a partial lifting [of the ban] is an option that is available to discuss and decide — should it be necessary."

In Bach's hands

Bach is almost certain to make the final decision. He has argued individual athletes should not be punished for the sprawling, state-run scandal. He has also seemed hesitant to move against a powerful member like Russia.

The executive board is often seen as a rubber stamp, and even more so the full membership. Many of those members have left Pyeongchang, including the IOC's two strongest dissenting voices: Richard Pound of Canada and Adam Pengilly of Britain. They have been the only two members to openly oppose Bach.

Pound left on his own, upset that the IOC allowed Russia to participate. Pengilly was expelled from the games last week after a run-in with a security guard. Pengilly disputed details of the incident, but the IOC moved quickly to send him home.

The IOC's full membership is 100, but three are suspended. That means only 49 members are needed for a quorum on Sunday. The IOC says it will have one, and is asking some members to return just to make sure.

The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organizations has ripped the IOC for allowing Russians to compete. In an open letter, it said "you can't merely wish away the most significant fraud in the history of sport." It said by not taking hard action this time, the IOC "would be culpable in this effort to defraud clean athletes of the world."